Healthcare, utility among the topics discussed at the Meet the Candidates Forum – The Vicksburg Post

Healthcare, utility among the topics discussed at the Meet the Candidates Forum

Published at 3.23pm on Friday 30 June 2023

Health care, Medicaid expansion and utilities were among the main topics as candidates for statehood met with Warren County residents on Thursday in a forum at the Warren County Courthouse.

An estimated 50 people participated in the program sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Mississippi’s first governing black chapter, the Vicksburg chapter of the NAACP, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

The discussion on health care and Medicaid expansion began with a question from the audience to candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and House Districts 55 and 85 regarding the loss of rural hospitals. At some point, all of the candidates said they supported Medicare expansion.

District 85 Representative Jeffery Harness said the reason hospitals were closing is a lack of health insurance.

We can address these problems if we simply approve Medicaid expansion, Harness said.

Expanding Medicaid, he said, would put a million dollars in our pockets and add countless jobs.

We could also improve our hospitals by recruiting more doctors and more nurses who are leaving our state. So our care, our quality care, is not what it should be,” she said. “The band-aid we put on our problem is not enough to heal our problem.

If Gov. Tate Reeves signed on, we would have Medicaid expansion right now, District 55 Representative Oscar Denton said.

We’ve been losing billions of dollars from the first three years, Denton said. If we had accepted that money, it would have cost us nothing. But we have some leaders who refuse to care about people. It’s not me and Jeff (Harness). We tried to give hospitals $150 million this year. They only said $103 (million).

District 55 candidate Kimberly Stevens said the state needs to be able to secure funding from other sources to make sure small hospitals can stay open.

And by doing so, we can get funding out of some grants, Stevens said, adding that he also believes Medicaid Expansion is important.

I think the reason we have closures is because we don’t have funds in the state, gubernatorial candidate Gwendolyn Gray said. We have a lot of small towns that are isolated and sometimes they get overlooked. We allocate funds from the funding we have available, but we are not spending it.

Lieutenant governor candidate Tiffany Longino said Medicaid should be expanded, adding, “We have sick people here in the state of Mississippi who need health care, and health care may be available if our elected officials put funds to where they belong and accept the funds we need, which come from the federal government.

We could get something like $1 billion for the state of Mississippi for those who need health care and don’t have it, Longino said.

Public utilities questions focused on service improvement and better communication between utilities and public and local officials. The questions come in the wake of a bout of severe storms that knocked out the power to thousands of residents. Entergy has been criticized by officials and customers for not responding to outages faster and providing timely updates on recovery.

DeKeither Stamps, a candidate for Central District Public Service Commissioner, said one way to improve utility service is to write policies that make our utilities resilient, affordable, reliable—not duplicating their failed policies or the policies of other states. We have to do the necessary things to make sure that all these decisions have a reliable result.

He said Entergy is not responsive to the public and that someone has to write a policy or someone has to rewrite the policy to improve it. And that’s how politics moves our community forward.”

Central Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey said that following the 2021 ice storm, the PSC performed a comprehensive overhaul of state services infrastructure.

And while the commissioners have taken steps to improve utility transmission in the state, we need to take a look at the distribution system,” Bailey said. But more importantly, we need to communicate, we need to have effective communications between our utilities and their customers. because you have a choice, one supplier until things change.You have an entity you can rely on to provide that essential life-saving core resource.

Responding to a follow-up question, Bailey said communication between Entergy and its customers failed.

It’s something we’ve always had trouble with, he said. Not only communication but also service, too many times”.

Bailey said Entergy has hired too many out-of-state contractors who don’t know the area or the clients. She said Entergy needs to hire more state workers and bring jobs back to the state.

Stamps said the PSC can do better, saying the people in the state deserve better from their officials.

What happened is unacceptable; it is unacceptable for seniors to be without electricity to their homes, Stamps said. If you don’t have electricity, that means you don’t have air.

He said commissioners should be more aggressive in holding utilities accountable for poor service.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a BA in General Studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a staffer at The Vicksburg Post since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul’s Catholic Church and is a member of the Port City Kiwanis club.

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